I'd like to add a few different thoughts to Brian Balfour's blogpost on the BOG Review.
First let's recognize that recent press accounts tell us the Board of Governors review of UNC Centers and Institutes have generated more heat than light. Local student protest groups are hyperventilating and framing the review as a politically generated assault on higher education and minority groups. Our friend Jenna Robinson of the Pope Center for Higher Education has been covering the histrionics and offers her perspective here.
Politically motivated? Former UNC President Erskine Bowles a life-long Democrat even admitted that many of the UNC Centers had outlived the purposes for which they were created.
Do UNC Centers perform valuable research and important community service? That‘s a question for the Board of Governors to decide. If they do, the facts will bear that out and advocates will not have difficulty making a persuasive case. The converse will also be true.
I commend the BOG for undertaking a much-needed thorough review of UNC Centers and Institutes.
Many of the institutes are focused on highly specialized research areas (e.g., Center for Dielectrics and Piezoelectrics or the Center for Precision Metrology). Are we advocating the end of all specialized and pure research? Of course not. Fostering promising research is part of university’s responsibility. Promising research also attract scholars and dollars and public interest. Maintaining all UNC Centers and Institutes ignores the reality that it is not possible nor desirable to continue to fund all UNC Centers and Institutes at the current levels. If sufficient outside funding cannot be secured to assist with funding many of the institutes and centers — which is how the majority of Centers and Institutes operate — why should taxpayers of North Carolina be asked to foot the bill for efforts that others have refused to support?
It’s a luxury North Carolina cannot afford.